Hosono, Haruomi: Omni Sight Seeing LP
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The unbelievably prolific Haruomi Hosono is one of the major architects of modern Japanese pop music. With his encyclopedic knowledge of music and boundless curiosity for new sounds, Hosono is the auteur of his own idiosyncratic musical world, putting his unmistakable stamp on hundreds of recordings as an artist, session player, songwriter and producer. Born and raised in central Tokyo, his adolescent obsession with American pop culture informed his early forays into country music, which he would revisit later in his career. Hosono made his professional debut in 1969 as a member of Apryl Fool, whose heavy psychedelia was somewhat at odds with his influences, which leaned towards the rootsy sounds of Moby Grape and Buffalo Springfield. The latter was one of the main inspirations for his next group, Happy End, whose unique blend of West Coast sounds with Japanese lyrics proved to be highly influential over the course of three albums. After the band’s amicable break up in 1973, Hosono began his solo career with Hosono House, an intimate slice of Japanese Americana recorded inside a rented house with recording gear squeezed into its tiny bedroom. Hosono’s solo career would take many twists and turns from this point forward, with forays into exotica, electronic, ambient, and techno, culminating in the massive success of techno pop group Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), who made their debut in 1978.
Omni Sight Seeing, originally released in 1989 during YMO’s initial hiatus, is an exhilarating musical journey around the world as filtered through Hosono’s kaleidoscopic lens. This work stands as a manifestation of his concept of “Sight Seeing Music,” putting his own tasteful spin on the “world” music encountered during his explorations of global cultures. From Japanese minyo and Algerian rai, to American swing jazz and the self-described, extraterrestrial “Ether music,” his eclectic influences coalesce into a sound that is unmistakably Hosono’s, and many consider this album to be the perfect summation of his mastery of pop music forms. Partly recorded in Paris with assistance from producer Martin Meissonnier (Don Cherry, Fela Kuti) and contributions from French-Tunisian singer Amina, omni Sight Seeing includes the mysterious “Orgone Box” (inspired by Wilhelm Reich and Steve Reich), the acid house “Laugh-Gas” (inspired by Rococo and the French Revolution) and the serene fan favorite “Pleocene” (conveying an “oceanic feeling”).
Admired by artists ranging from Van Dyke Parks to Mac DeMarco, Hosono continues to forge ahead as he heads into his fifth decade as a musician. With the re-release of his key albums for the first time outside of Japan, his genius will be discovered by a whole new generation of fans around the world.